Cover image for A sight for sore eyes : a novel
Title:
A sight for sore eyes : a novel
Author:
Rendell, Ruth, 1930-2015.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [1998]

©1998
Physical Description:
327 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780609604175
Format :
Book

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Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
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Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Angola Public Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Clarence Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Clearfield Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Hamburg Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Kenmore Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Lancaster Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Orchard Park Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Summary

Summary

A Sight for Sore Eyestells three stories, and for the longest time, the reader has no inkling of how they will come together. The first is a story of a little girl who has been scolded and sent to her room when her mother is brutally murdered; as Francine grows up, she is haunted by the experience, and it is years before she even speaks. Secondly, we become privy to the life of a young man, Teddy, born of unthinking young parents, who grows up almost completely ignored. Free of societal mores, he becomes a sociopath, who eventually discovers that killing can be an effective way to get what he wants.  Thirdly, we meet Harriet, who from an early age has learned to use her beauty to make her way in the world. Bored by marriage to a wealthy, much older man, she scans the local newspapers for handymen to perform odd jobs around the house, including services in the bedroom. When these three plots strands finally converge, the result is harrowing and unforgettable. A Sight for Sore Eyesis not just the work of a writer at the peak of her craft. It is an extraordinary story by a writer who, after 45 books, countless awards, and decades of international acclaim, is still getting better with every book.


Author Notes

Ruth Rendell (1930-2015) Ruth Rendell was born in Essex, England on February 17, 1930. She was educated at Loughton County High School.

Rendell began her career as a journalist. She wrote six novels before sending her work in to a publisher. She writes crime novels and psychological thrillers, and is best known for her Inspector Wexford books. Rendell also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.

Rendell has received many awards for her writing, including the Silver, Gold, and Cartier Diamond Daggers from the Crime Writers' Association, three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, The Arts Council National Book Awards, and The Sunday Times Literary Award. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Many of her titles have been made into films and made-for-tv movies.

Rendell died on May 2, 2015. She was 85 years old.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This stunning thriller from one of the grand masters of mystery features dark psychological overtones, a sense of deep foreboding, odd characters with dented psyches, and a strangely unsettling plot. Teddy Brex was a lonely and resentful child who suffered from the indifference of his parents. As an adult, Teddy concentrates on crafting beautiful objects from wood--and on murder. Francine Hill witnessed her mother's murder when she was a child. The event so shocked her that she became mute. Her father later married Francine's therapist, who has become desperately overprotective as Francine matures into adulthood. Harriet Oxenholme became famous as the model in a sought-after painting but lived in a sordid world of sex and drugs until she seduced a wealthy businessman into marriage. Now bored with the ordinariness of her life, she lures tradesmen into her bed while her husband is off on business trips. Teddy and Francine meet and fall in love, and Teddy inadvertently becomes Harriet's sexual prey, but as events bring the three together, it becomes clear they are headed toward certain disaster. This dark, richly structured story explores the intricacies of the human psyche and the nature of good and evil and offers up highly complex characters and an ending that is both ironic and deeply disturbing. A must-have for every collection, this one is sure to be among the best, most provocative novels of 1999. --Emily Melton


Publisher's Weekly Review

A pair of English teens, Teddy and Francine (who have grown up in dysfunctional families where common parenting faults are taken to extremes), meet and think that in each other they might find the beauty and freedom their own lives are lacking. Their troubled affair takes a while to get going, but once it does, Rendell's sharp characterizations and idiosyncratic descriptions are riveting. Though several deaths occur in the book, the only real mystery is that of the murder of Francine's mother, which Francine overheard (near the novel's beginning) when she was seven. Instead, Rendell (Road Rage, etc.) focuses more on how a few sedately bizarre ticks can build exponentially into insanity. Francine's stepmother, for example, progresses from simple worry about her stepdaughter's well-being to obsessive anxiety that borders on dementia. Rendell follows the story's principal objects as closely as she does its characters: the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that Teddy's indifferent mother finds in a public bathroom; the video case in which Francine's mother hid her love letters, the painting of two young lovers that shows Teddy the perfect beauty he would kill for. Rendell leaves nothing and no one unaccounted for, from the looks given by the neighbors over the fence to the idle thoughts that pass through characters' minds when they scan a room. A tour-de-force of psychological suspense, the novel culminates in a dramatic climax that's as unforgettable as what has preceded it. Mystery Guild main selection; Literary Guild featured alternate; simultaneous audio and large print editions; author tour. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

A little girl who sees her mother murdered. A rich woman bored enough to scout for lovers among the ads for handymen. A young man who murders to get what he wants. They all come together in Rendell's latest. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

They were to hold hands and look at one another. Deeply, into each other's eyes. "It's not a sitting," she said. "It's a standing. Why can't I sit on his knee?" He laughed. Everything she said amused or delighted him, everything about her captivated him from her dark red curly hair to her small white feet. The painter's instructions were that he should look at her as if in love and she at him as if enthralled. This was easy, this was to act naturally. "Don't be silly, Harriet," said Simon Alpheton. "The very idea! Have you ever seen a painting by Rembrandt called The Jewish Bride?" They hadn't. Simon described it to them as he began his preliminary sketch. "It's a very tender painting, it expresses the protective love of the man for his young submissive bride. They're obviously wealthy, they're very richly dressed, but you can see that they're sensitive, thoughtful people and they're in love." "Like us. Rich and in love. Do we look like them?" "Not in the least, and I don't think you'd want to. Ideas of beauty have changed." "You could call it 'The Red-haired Bride.' " "She's not your bride. I am going to call it 'Marc and Harriet in Orcadia Place'--what else? Now would you just stop talking for a bit, Marc?" The house they stood in front of was described by those who knew about such things as a Georgian cottage and built of the kind of red bricks usually called mellow. But at this time of the year, midsummer, almost all the brickwork was hidden under a dense drapery of Virginia creeper, its leaves green, glossy and quivering in the light breeze. The whole surface of the house seemed to shiver and rustle, a vertical sea of green ruffled into wavelets by the wind. Simon Alpheton was fond of walls, brick walls, flint walls, walls of wood and walls of stone. When he painted Come Hither outside the studio in Hanging Sword Alley he placed them against a concrete wall stuck all over with posters. As soon as he saw that Marc's house had a wall of living leaves he wanted also to paint that, with Marc and Harriet too, of course. The wall was a shining cascade in many shades of green, Marc was in a dark-blue suit, thin black tie and white shirt, and Harriet was all in red. When the autumn came those leaves would turn the same color as her hair and her dress. Then they would gradually bleach to gold, to pale-yellow, fall and make a nuisance of themselves, filling the whole of that hedge-enclosed paved square and the entire backyard to a depth of several inches. The brickwork of the house would once more be revealed and the occasional, probably fake, bit of half-timbering. And in the spring of 1966 pale-green shoots would appear and the leafy cycle begin all over again. Simon thought about that as he drew leaves and hair and pleated silk. "Don't do that," he said, as Marc reached forward to kiss Harriet, at the same time keeping hold of her hand and drawing her toward him. "Leave her alone for five minutes, can't you?" "It's hard, man, it's hard." "Tenderness is what I want to catch, not lust. Right?" "My foot's gone to sleep," said Harriet. "Can we take a break, Simon?" "Another five minutes. Don't think about your foot. Look at him and think about how much you love him." She looked up at him and he looked down at her. He held her left hand in his right hand and their eyes met in a long gaze, and Simon Alpheton painted them, preserving them in the front garden of Orcadia Cottage, if not forever, for a very long time. "Maybe I'll buy it," Harriet said later, looking with approval at the outline of her face and figure. "What with?" Marc kissed her. His voice was gentle but his words were not. "You haven't any money." When Simon Alpheton looked back to that day he thought that this was the beginning of the end, the worm in the bud showing its ugly face and writhing body among the flowers. Excerpted from A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

They were to hold hands and look at one another. Deeply, into each other's eyes.
"It's not a sitting," she said. "It's a standing. Why can't I sit on his knee?"
He laughed. Everything she said amused or delighted him, everything about her captivated him from her dark red curly hair to her small white feet. The painter's instructions were that he should look at her as if in love and she at him as if enthralled. This was easy, this was to act naturally.
"Don't be silly, Harriet," said Simon Alpheton. "The very idea! Have you ever seen a painting by Rembrandt called The Jewish Bride?"
They hadn't. Simon described it to them as he began his preliminary sketch. "It's a very tender painting, it expresses the protective love of the man for his young submissive bride. They're obviously wealthy, they're very richly dressed, but you can see that they're sensitive, thoughtful people and they're in love."
"Like us. Rich and in love. Do we look like them?"
"Not in the least, and I don't think you'd want to. Ideas of beauty have changed."
"You could call it 'The Red-haired Bride.' "
"She's not your bride. I am going to call it 'Marc and Harriet in Orcadia Place'--what else? Now would you just stop talking for a bit, Marc?"
The house they stood in front of was described by those who knew about such things as a Georgian cottage and built of the kind of red bricks usually called mellow. But at this time of the year, midsummer, almost all the brickwork was hidden under a dense drapery of Virginia creeper, its leaves green, glossy and quivering in the light breeze. The whole surface of the house seemed to shiver and rustle, a vertical sea of green ruffled into wavelets by the wind.
Simon Alpheton was fond of walls, brick walls, flint walls, walls of wood and walls of stone. When he painted Come Hither outside the studio in Hanging Sword Alley he placed them against a concrete wall stuck all over with posters. As soon as he saw that Marc's house had a wall of living leaves he wanted also to paint that, with Marc and Harriet too, of course. The wall was a shining cascade in many shades of green, Marc was in a dark-blue suit, thin black tie and white shirt, and Harriet was all in red.
When the autumn came those leaves would turn the same color as her hair and her dress. Then they would gradually bleach to gold, to pale-yellow, fall and make a nuisance of themselves, filling the whole of that hedge-enclosed paved square and the entire backyard to a depth of several inches. The brickwork of the house would once more be revealed and the occasional, probably fake, bit of half-timbering. And in the spring of 1966 pale-green shoots would appear and the leafy cycle begin all over again. Simon thought about that as he drew leaves and hair and pleated silk. "Don't do that," he said, as Marc reached forward to kiss Harriet, at the same time keeping hold of her hand and drawing her toward him. "Leave her alone for five minutes, can't you?"
"It's hard, man, it's hard."
"Tenderness is what I want to catch, not lust. Right?"
"My foot's gone to sleep," said Harriet. "Can we take a break, Simon?"
"Another five minutes. Don't think about your foot. Look at him and think about how much you love him."
She looked up at him and he looked down at her. He held her left hand in his right hand and their eyes met in a long gaze, and Simon Alpheton painted them, preserving them in the front garden of Orcadia Cottage, if not forever, for a very long time.
"Maybe I'll buy it," Harriet said later, looking with approval at the outline of her face and figure.
"What with?" Marc kissed her. His voice was gentle but his words were not. "You haven't any money."
When Simon Alpheton looked back to that day he thought that this was the beginning of the end, the worm in the bud showing its ugly face and writhing body among the flowers.
From the Hardcover edition.

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